Clayton County Sheriff-elect Victor HillGov. Nathan Deal has found himself in the middle of a saga fit only for Chicagoland politics: a suburban Atlanta county elected this week as its top lawman a candidate facing a 32-count felony indictment.

Victor Hill cruised to victory Tuesday as the sheriff-elect of Clayton County in spite of a laundry list of racketeering and theft charges. Now, the ball is in Deal’s court.

Unless Hill’s guilt or innocence is determined by the courts before his January swearing-in, the governor would be obliged by state law to appoint a three-person advisory panel to evaluate his possible suspension from office pending the case’s resolution.

If that committee, which would be constituted by the attorney general and a pair of sheriffs of the governor’s choosing, recommends no suspension, Deal would be required to accept the advice. But if the consensus is to strip Hill of his office, Deal is free to pursue either option.

But even if Deal were not to intercede, Hill would be unable to make arrests or serve warrants because his certification as a law enforcement office was already suspended by the state accrediting agency.

The question of Deal’s involvement would be rendered moot if charges against Hill were resolved by January 1. His trial was originally slated for November 26, but was delayed after five of the original 37 charges were dismissed by the judge.

Should Hill be found guilty of even one of the 32 felonies of which he’s been charged, he would be unable to serve and a special election would be immediately called.

Hill, a former Democratic state lawmaker and later Clayton Co. Sheriff from 2004 through 2008, maintains the criminal charges against him were politically-motivated.

– James Richardson